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anthony draco
05-06-2012, 11:54 AM
Hi, everybody. I've been here on and off for quite a while, and now I'm back to do a little research.

Does anyone here live in a farm, or lived in a farm?

My main character is an teenage boy in medieval fantasy. He's away from home and is forced to look for work to feed himself and buy stuff for the next stage of his journey. He needs money. And the scene I'm about to write is in a cattle farm. Yak farm. (But any knowledge about farm work is welcome.)

Anything at all is appreciated. I need EVERYTHING to make it realistic. But I especially need these following:

Do farms pay much? I supposed little.

What are the works at a farm? Especially in a snowy region? Chop wood? Milk cattle? Shearing? Can you name any menial labor? Any experience or knowledge or feelings or how, while work is appreciated.

I need help on shearing. When do they shear? Do the whole town/village tend to shear at the same time? Any experience or knowledge or feelings or how, while working on it is appreciated.

EDIT: Yak is basically a cow. Except that it gives fur too. If anyone can provide experience in caring for cows, I would seriously appreciate it. I can forgo shearing, because it's early spring, too early to shear.

Are 10 cows too big number in one farm?

waylander
05-06-2012, 12:33 PM
A lot of farm work is seasonal. What time of year is this taking place?

anthony draco
05-06-2012, 12:40 PM
Early spring. I assume that there's shearing coming on?

buz
05-06-2012, 01:16 PM
I've worked/lived on horse farms...I tried to write an answer but I realized everything depends way too much stuff like technology, where your people live, when they live, what their farm is like (does it have running water, heat, pastures, I dunno), and the specific needs of yaks, which I know nothing about. (Do they need dewormer? Hoof care? Vetting? How sensitive are they? Are they breeding the yaks? What sort of diseases do they get? How self-sufficient are yaks? What do yaks eat, exactly?)

However, not making much money is generally consistent with most farms. :D I've worked on a few and typically made less than minimum wage, but was given housing on a couple occasions to make up for it. Hours are long, before sunup and after sundown unless it's summer, and it's hard to find time to stop sometimes.

The vast majority of what I do on a daily basis is cleaning and moving stuff around. I clean stalls, move poop, move bedding, move hay, move feed, disperse feed, disperse hay, clean the barn, clean the horses, clean the feet, clean the water buckets, moving horses from paddocks to barn and back, fill the water buckets, if it's winter I have to move water from the barn to the pastures because they shut off the pipes to the waterers out there (there are auto-waterers that you can have that fill themselves and provide a water source, but at every place I've worked, they shut off the pipes in winter so pthtph), break ice in buckets in and troughs, shovel snow, drive tractors to dump manure, rake, sweep, deworm the horses, medicate the horses, hose the horses off/walk them around when they're hot and put blankets on when they're cold--a lot of which, I imagine, won't translate to your yak farm...:P I imagine yaks are a lot sturdier than horses.

Sydneyd
05-06-2012, 01:29 PM
I'm not a farm expert but have put in some time. I can give vague answers.

1. Farm work pays very little. The more menial the job the less it pays.

2. Since the livestock are your bread and butter the most important work is caring for them. It was a rule that the animals ate before we did. Depending on where they are kept they could need to be moved, either from an enclosed area to a larger day time area, or from one field to another. The smaller the area the more important it is to keep it clean. If there are harvesting needs (collecting eggs, milking) those would be attended to first thing before they are moved to a larger area or allowed to roam free.

3. I have limited experience with shearing. From my understanding you gather all the animals into a small location (since it would take all day to bring them one by one) and you start at it. The person doing it will be pretty experienced and even if they aren't by the time the fiftieth yak rolls around, they will be pretty good at it.

I know this is all vague, but I hope some of it helps :)

anthony draco
05-06-2012, 02:38 PM
Yak is about cow size. It can do pretty much everything a cow can. Except that it gives fur too. Can anyone provide experience in taking care of cows too?

Is 10 a big number for cows in one farm?

Kerosene
05-06-2012, 02:45 PM
Yak is about cow size. It can do pretty much everything a cow can. Except that it gives fur too. Can anyone provide experience in taking care of cows too?

Is 10 a big number for cows in one farm?

10 is quite a lot. I had two and they took up a good field of hay by themselves.


If you need to make money, raise bulls. Good bulls will fetch a handsome sum in a good market. Selling milk is chump change compared to this.

He can also sell them off before he leaves and make good money. In older times, animals were the life blood of any farm; so they well extremely high. But if this is his job, selling someone else's livestock will be troublesome.



And someone needs to play Harvest Moon one of these days. :D

Puma
05-06-2012, 04:13 PM
I live in a farming community in the midwestern US.

10 is a small herd of cows if the primary purpose of the farm is cattle for beef or cattle for milk. 25 is a more likely number for a not too large farm, but one in which the cattle provide a major source of income. If you talk about range cattle situations like in the western US, farms may have herds of thousands.

But, Medieval fantasy, there would only be a couple - just enough to provide for the needs of the family. And in those days, it's doubtful anyone would hire an outsider to care for the yaks / farm, unless the owner was a widow or elderly. And hiring would be for food and board - no pay.

Cattle have to be fed, so one of the primary needs on any farm is growing food for the cattle. Plowing and tilling fields, planting crops, fertilizing the soil, controlling weeds, harvesting crops, storing the crops is one of the major jobs needing to be done. Puma

lorna_w
05-06-2012, 04:29 PM
Chinese yak management: http://www.fao.org/docrep/006/ad347e/ad347e0j.htm

Early spring, you'd probably be done spreading manure on fields (if they've gotten to that level of farm tech yet) and doing early plowing/harrowing, prepping fields for growing your cash crop or food for humans and other animals or food for the lord, if you've got any kind of feudal system going. You can use the yaks for plowing instead of horses or oxen. Harrowing would be done with the simplest of drags--a log, probably. For plows, see http://scholar.chem.nyu.edu/tekpages/heavyplow.html for a time-appropriate design. Yaks can be combed instead of sheared, if you're just looking for something to stuff the mattress with, but for the yak's sake, you shear them in later spring so they can handle hot weather. Females can be milked, the milk churned into yak butter. Females have hairy udders. People can teach yaks to come when called. They smell only a little. They need to live at higher altitudes and in colder climes. In such times, you wouldn't specialize between dairy and meat, just have some yaks, though females would be kept and young males slaughtered to feed the family or sell/barter to neighbors. Ten animals sounds like a pretty well-off farm for the time. Most subsistence farmers would have one or two. If he does have, say, eight females, one might give birth as early as March, but April is more common.

Early spring in a cold climate means you're still having storms. Making sure the yak can get to water is crucial, and your character would be getting up well before dawn in nasty cold weather to break the ice on a pond or trough to guarantee water to the animals.

Early spring you might also still be repairing harness, fixing wheels, patching the roof on the barn, repairing fences, plugging leaks in the milk bucket. It's cold and your nose and fingers ache. A poor kid might not have great footwear either, and he's going to be risking frostbite. A lot of the work is heavy. He'd ache, be hungry (and perhaps not fed enough), be exhausted by sundown. Not a member of the family, he'd be sleeping in an outbuilding if they have one and it'd be danged cold. If a dog would sleep next to him, it'd make the nights easier.

You don't have to worry about vets in such a low-tech world. Communal knowledge might help treat a problem, or the animal might sicken or die.

dirtsider
05-06-2012, 04:30 PM
Check out Howell Farm's website - www.howellfarm.org (http://www.howellfarm.org). They do a later period (1890-1910) but a lot of what they do applies to medieval farming. The harnesses may be a bit more complicated for Howell Farm but it should give you an idea of how and what they would've done.

1. Farmers think in terms of "crops". Sheep, for example, are a mobile wool/milk/meat crop. While they might become attached to some of their animals, in the end, most of them are going to become dinner or sold off to become someone else's dinner.

2. Oxen would've been used a lot for farm use in the medieval period. They're both strong workers and can be killed for meat if they come to the end of their useful working stage.

Howell Farm teaches their interns in the use of both horses and oxen for work. Right now they're training a new set of calves to become oxen. Might be useful for your story.

3. Storage / Cooking - they would've had a root cellar to keep vegatables in storage for the winter. If not, they would've had a spring house that was built over a spring/creek, if they had one on their property. (Most likely because they do need access to water, probably had a pond as well.) This kept most vegatables cool in the warm weather. A root cellar would've been where they kept vegatables for winter.

Canning would've been important as well. While some vegatables and fruit would've kept well for long periods of time (such as apples and root vegatables), other things like strawberries, cherries, peaches might not. So they would've been canned. Look up canning. Chances are they would've been pureed or made into jam, put into a crock, then covered with wax or similar substance.

Watch A Taste of History. Granted, Chief Strab does 18th Century receipes but the cooking methods would've been fairly similar. And he has some wonderful segments on historical facts, such as one with a root cellar or blacksmithing.

Another site you might like is www.smoke-fire.com (http://www.smoke-fire.com). It offers "goods for living history re-enactors". A lot of stuff is for Colonial American re-enactors but there's also instruction videos as well as books on the medieval period. And yet another site is www.sykesutler.com (http://www.sykesutler.com). In the food section, there are two VHS videos on Tudor Cooking. One is called "Tudor Cooking" and the other called "Tudor Dinner Party". There's a BBC series on DVD that covers rural foods. Haven't seen that one yet but I enjoyed watching the Tudor Cooking.

PorterStarrByrd
05-06-2012, 04:55 PM
You are probably not going to have just a few yaks ... dog, chickens, some sort of meat animal like a pig or two ... mythical animals maybe.

Going to have to contain the animals with fencing, probably building and maintaing a barn ... Bad weather, in winter particularly, means repair.

Probably have to make and repair tools. Going to have to have a feed crop for animals, garden for yourself

canning, drying, smoking (after butchering),salting or some prep work to preserve for winter food.

Water sources, with possible storage if you have a dry sean.

Probably need to make barrels or some other type of containers.

Maintainance of house etc

Getting rid of ashes.. Farm work provides for a full day when the weather is good.

Hide tanning, weaving, clothes making, cooking, sanitary conveniences, even if an outhouse and hot water on the wood stove. If you have hard winters a pump to get water to the house (probably a hand pump) and maitainance comes with all of these too.

Foraging, hunting or fishing, herb gathering. How much do they know about home remedies. ... any schooling going on?

Helping neighbors when they have sick or ill providers ... cooperative efforts in raising buildings or gathering crops often are done.

Possibly protection from something or somebody requires some prep usually.

Read a book or two about frontier life and you probably discover other things... I once wrote a letter to John Steinbeck asking how to become a good write. His answer was to become a good reader.

With google you have a world of research available ... use it.

Theo81
05-06-2012, 07:20 PM
I live in a farming community. If I swivel to my right, I'm looking at cows.

The number of cows depends on the size of the farm. The jobs on the farm depend on what the farm does. What the farm does depends on the local economy.

Any farm will have chickens, maybe ducks - egg laying birds which also go in the pot. They may also have geese as a security feature or, again, for food. They will likely have a pig which is fed the kitchen scraps etc.
There will be a garden to grow veg for the family, probably overseen by the farmer's wife.

What price is grain in your world? Will the farm be growing it themselves, for themselves? Likely to.
Do they understand soil management? They have pasture but they will also need to grow hay, they may grow a crop like manglewurzle (beets) to feed the cattle in the winter. Will that need fertilizing with lime or potash or seaweed etc

How much excess milk do they have? How often do they get to market? Some can be made into butter. More is likely to be made into cheese (which keeps). This (in Victorian times at least) was done by the women - dairy maids were very desirable as they had to be clean to work in the dairy and there is many a ribald joke concerning them.

Cows are milked twice a day, morning and evening. Throughout the year they need moving around to new pasture.


A lot of what goes on is going to depend on climate and locality.

anthony draco
05-06-2012, 07:32 PM
Thanks everyone. I'm trying to compile all this into my work.

Well, Theo, for your question,

For grain price, I haven't thought about it yet. But I doubt if a snowy mountainous region grow grain for themselves. Do you have any other substitutes? (The place is like sort of like Tibet.)

Will the farm be growing it themselves, for themselves? I suppose. But I planned for this farm to be rather big. They will have a bit of excess to sell.

Do they understand soil management? Nope.

How do they grow hay? And I suppose you have to plant beet in rows, right? Does it work for cold mountainous region?

How much excess milk do they have? I'd think quite something.

How often do they get to market? The town/village is nearby at the foot of the mountain, but since this is early spring, I don't think they have much for sale.

Fins Left
05-06-2012, 07:55 PM
If your reason for putting him on this farm is because he needs money, then you're going to have to give him a skill on top of taking care of the farm. Even today, most farms trade a living space and maybe a stall for their full time workers. He could possibly make some sort of trinket to sell in the market using free resources from the farm (if the farmer is okay with it).

Your farmers will understand soil management (otherwise they would not have a farm). You should google traditional farming techniques, things like letting a field lay fallow and using ashes (the predicessor to lime) to sweeten soil. Also, raw milk adds a lot to the soil, so the stripping from milking could be thrown onto the garden. These would be passed down as verbal or folk lore, but they are soil management.

Sorgum is a fast growing grain that tolerates a lot of conditions. But also you need to look up what yak's actually need. If they're native to the area and the farm is large, it's possible they could browse through the winter.

jclarkdawe
05-06-2012, 08:09 PM
My main character is an teenage boy in medieval fantasy. He's away from home and is forced to look for work to feed himself and buy stuff for the next stage of his journey. He needs money.

Two things I notice here that concern me. The first is whether you treat your boy as a boy or a man. Many of the cowboys in the American West were older teens or very young men. Very few were thirty or older. But they were hired to do a man's work, even if they were sixteen, and were expected to work like a man.

Without getting into sexism and all that stuff, by and large doing a man's work got a man's wages (sort of). Kids and women? They got paid just a fraction of what a man did, because they couldn't do a man's work. A lot of farm or ranch work involves a lot of skill, strength, and knowledge to do it effectively. Even something as simple as tossing hay bales reflects your ability to do farm work.

So first off, I'm wondering why a farm would hire a kid.

Then I move to the next problem. Most cultures based on farming worked much more on a barter system, rather then a cash system. Farms just don't have cash sitting around. During your harvest period (whether this means sending a large amount of animals to slaughter or pulling potatoes) you'll have a surplus of credit, which may actually translate into actual cash, but more often is used to pay the debts that you accrued over the year waiting to get to the harvest.

Farms are frequently very asset rich and very cash broke. And the more marginal the farming area, the less and less likely they would be to have cash.

So even if they hire a kid, it would be for room and board, and nothing else. Even a man would be unlikely to get much more. If he's trying to earn money, I think it much more likely he'd head for town. Town is where the money is.

To give you an idea, back in 1880 in Texas, a cowhand would get about thirty dollars a month, plus room and board. Meanwhile a town sheriff would be paid somewhere between two to three hundred dollars a month. Store clerk would get about fifty a month, teachers about sixty. Factory workers were at around forty a month. Room and board was sometimes supplied.

A kid sweeping out the store would only get a couple of pennies. Among other things, a farm society is going to have an abundance of kids. It's a source of cheap labor for a farm to have as many kids as possible.

As a result, I'm having some problems buying your premise that I quoted.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

anthony draco
05-06-2012, 08:22 PM
Question:
Is potato suitable to be harvested in early spring? Did people in medieval plant them in household garden or farm rows?

anthony draco
05-06-2012, 08:27 PM
jclarke, thanks for pointing that out. Looks like I have to trunk this entire scene and have them go for the village then.

What do you reckon they could do in a farming village (this farming village depends on yak wool, BTW) during early spring when the trades are coming? Laboring for loading stuff?

ViolettaVane
05-06-2012, 08:27 PM
Potatoes come from the New World and were unknown in medieval times. They didn't become a European food crop until the 18th century.

The cool thing about potatoes is that they can grow even in bad, dry, mountainous soil and they can store very well. So the Andean farmers who cultivated them would plant them, harvest them, and then sometimes freeze-dry them (first squeezing all the water out of them) which would let them keep for years.

StephanieFox
05-06-2012, 09:13 PM
Check this out. There are yak farms in Minnesota:

http://www.columnists.com/?attachment_id=6487

dirtsider
05-06-2012, 11:26 PM
If this scene is going to be transferred into a town setting, decide whether or not this kid came from a farm or was town-raised. If he was town-raised, he would've been apprenticed off (probably early teens) to a skilled craftsman. So he'd have some sort of skill to barter for a quick fix. Then again, most craftsmen would have apprentices and probably wouldn't need another who is only going to be there a short period, unless they're very short handed. Chances are, he's going to have to do general grunt work. Even then, they'll probably wonder why he's run off from his master. If he's considered "unskilled labor" (i.e. has not been apprenticed off), he'd also get the general grunt work, the lowest of the low type stuff. Stuff others would probably gladly give to people like him because he's a nobody. They don't know him and probably don't trust him.

A farming village will probably have buildings for warehouses where they keep trade goods. They also have a lot of craftsmen who deal with the local farmers but who cater primarily to the merchants who are coming through that they sell their goods to: blacksmiths, carpenters, inns/taverns. This is where farms meet mercentile.

Read Shakespeare: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd. The first half or so deals with Shakespeare's childhood in Stratford-on-Avon. Yes, it's during the 16th Century but that's the period where there are some lingering vestiges of the medieval period. Stratford was a small-ish village that might be of use for you to copy.

anthony draco
05-06-2012, 11:45 PM
Thank you, dirtsider. This is the most useful. Especially the first and second paragraph. I think my character wouldn't mind being a grunt/laborer. He'd be able to load goods and transfer them from farms to craftsmen or craftsmen to merchant.

@Violetta, thank you too. I'll keep it for future reference.

jclarkdawe
05-07-2012, 04:14 AM
If your reason for putting him on this farm is because he needs money, then you're going to have to give him a skill on top of taking care of the farm. Even today, most farms trade a living space and maybe a stall for their full time workers. He could possibly make some sort of trinket to sell in the market using free resources from the farm (if the farmer is okay with it).


If this scene is going to be transferred into a town setting, decide whether or not this kid came from a farm or was town-raised. If he was town-raised, he would've been apprenticed off (probably early teens) to a skilled craftsman. So he'd have some sort of skill to barter for a quick fix. Then again, most craftsmen would have apprentices and probably wouldn't need another who is only going to be there a short period, unless they're very short handed. Chances are, he's going to have to do general grunt work. Even then, they'll probably wonder why he's run off from his master. If he's considered "unskilled labor" (i.e. has not been apprenticed off), he'd also get the general grunt work, the lowest of the low type stuff. Stuff others would probably gladly give to people like him because he's a nobody. They don't know him and probably don't trust him.

A farming village will probably have buildings for warehouses where they keep trade goods. They also have a lot of craftsmen who deal with the local farmers but who cater primarily to the merchants who are coming through that they sell their goods to: blacksmiths, carpenters, inns/taverns. This is where farms meet mercentile.

Read Shakespeare: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd. The first half or so deals with Shakespeare's childhood in Stratford-on-Avon. Yes, it's during the 16th Century but that's the period where there are some lingering vestiges of the medieval period. Stratford was a small-ish village that might be of use for you to copy.

Repeated because I'm too lazy to want to write it myself.

On a simple level, you have to answer why would someone give this kid money to do something they could do themselves. You face this all the time with oil changes. Anybody can change their own oil. It involves a minimum of tools, not a whole lot of knowledge, and some willingness to get dirty. So why don't most people change their own oil?

Basically it's cheaper and easier in our value system to have someone else do it.

Grunt labor in a farm community is a varying issue. During some parts of the year, there isn't enough to keep people busy. In other parts of the year, they're buried with work. (Realize that a small town connected to a farming area will operate in many ways on the same cycles as the farming.) But unless he shows up when people are desperate for any help, he's going to have a problem getting any work.

However, people with special skills can show up any time, and still get money. For example, if he know forest herbs that have medical values. Or if he could make trinkets. Or knows how to work metals.

But remember that his need for money doesn't get him any, unless he does the John Dillinger approach. You've got to create a situation in which your reader accepts that people are going to give him money.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

veinglory
05-07-2012, 04:56 AM
Sheering is skilled work, he will get paid more if he really knows how to do it, but otherwise he will be helping, not doing.

Fins Left
05-07-2012, 05:16 AM
Since it is spring, you could have a tradesman who's kid has slipped on ice and been injured, so he needs a temporary replacement because the kid is injured?

The only thing I can think of that are harvested in the spring are some herbs.

If you're dealing in a castle situation, spring is the time when they clean out the stalls. That isn't like today. In the old days, they bedded stalls in straw on top of themselves all winter long, so by spring it could be several inches (feet?) deep. (today, may types of farming also do this, but not horses) The practical side of this is that straw lets moisture pass through and stays 'dry' on top and in winter, the stalls get frozen solid, so are hard to empty. The thicker bedding also kept the horses up off of the cold ground (maybe?) - This would be at least in Germany.

shaldna
05-07-2012, 06:55 PM
Hi, everybody. I've been here on and off for quite a while, and now I'm back to do a little research.

Does anyone here live in a farm, or lived in a farm?

I have worked, and now live, on a farm (albeit a small one)



My main character is an teenage boy in medieval fantasy. He's away from home and is forced to look for work to feed himself and buy stuff for the next stage of his journey. He needs money. And the scene I'm about to write is in a cattle farm. Yak farm. (But any knowledge about farm work is welcome.)

Anything at all is appreciated. I need EVERYTHING to make it realistic. But I especially need these following:

Do farms pay much? I supposed little.

Very little. Even now. The majority of farmers still pay workers cash-in-hand, and you can expect to be paid below minimum wage - they get away with it because they pay cash in hand and treat you as a freelancer, or pay by the job, not by the hour.



What are the works at a farm? Especially in a snowy region? Chop wood? Milk cattle? Shearing? Can you name any menial labor? Any experience or knowledge or feelings or how, while work is appreciated.

Depends on the time of the year.

Summer, not so much happens. Cattle (well, all livestock) are out at pasture, so it's just checking fences, checking water and removing anything poisonous from the feild. Moving them from pasture to pasture, bringing them in twice a day for milking - animals get to know their routines very quickly, and you'll always find cows standing waiting at the gate come milking time. They walk quietly to the right sheds, and often the right stalls and wait. Two people is enough, even now, to bring a herd of cows in usually. Horses will do the same when brought in - I bring mine in loose and they automatically go to their own stables/sheds. Same thing at feeding times - they will go to the place they get fed before you even arrive with the bucket.

In winter, when the stock is in, you have the cleaning of the shed - hilarious fun. Cows poo. A lot. It needs lifted every day or it soon gets out of hand. You'll frequently have 20 or 30 cows crammed into a standard shed. Horses are the same, lots of cleaning out. At the time it would have been straw. Cleaning and filling water buckets.

Chickens - most farms have chickens of some sort, and at the time you mentioned they would have been kept loose most likely - chickens are very good at learning where they live, and we let ours out in the morning - after mid morning as this is laying time - and they wander off, but they always come back for feeding. Cleaning chickens out is nowhere near as much fun as it sounds - they can be bedded on anything, but they often prefer a dirt floor, and somewhere high to perch.

Dogs. All farms have dogs. And cats. We have a collie who appears to have an IQ of about 12, but he instinctively tries to herd the chickens into groups. If the farm has sheep, then they probably have a couple of dogs to help work them. Dogs are still used a lot now, not only for sheep, but for goats and cows and often horses too. A highly trained sheepdog is worth a LOT of money.

A typical day, assuming a mixed farm (sheep/cattle/crop) will have all of the following, not necessarily in this order

Well before dawn - get up
Feed any shed kept animals - cows, horses, pigs etc.
Bring in anything that needs milking - cows/goats
Milking time
Turnout animals who are going out.
Water everything - including all feild kept animals.
Start mucking out sheds, stables and stys.
About mid morning collect eggs and let chickens loose.
Lunchtime feeds
Check fencing
More cleaning
Bring animals in for afternoon/evening milking.

In addition, if it's shearing season - spring, then you will have the sheep to shear.

If it's calving, lambing or foaling time, then you will be sitting up most of the night with the herds watching for any animal who is having trouble - lambing and calving is early spring, horses tend to be later in the year (unless bred early) so you'll have a couple of weeks in between.

Early spring is also the time you want to be getting most of your crops in - potatoes, peas etc.

Summer you will cut your hay and straw - and at the time it would be hand, with a scythe.

Autumn you get in your fruit harvest and your potatoes and any feild crops in and bank up your woodstock for the winter.



I need help on shearing. When do they shear? Do the whole town/village tend to shear at the same time? Any experience or knowledge or feelings or how, while working on it is appreciated.

Shearing is done in spring, usually late spring after lambing is done, just when the weather is turning to summer.

Sheep shearing is tough. It's hot, it's physical, especially when done by hand with traidtional scissor-type clippers. Experienced hands can do it quite quickly, and there are lots of competitions for shearing.

It's also very, very greasy and very itchy - so you'll find that folks tend to wear long sleeved tops, despite the heat.

The fleeces are collected and washed in a large bath to rid them of mud and lice and anything else that might be in there.


EDIT: Yak is basically a cow. Except that it gives fur too. If anyone can provide experience in caring for cows, I would seriously appreciate it. I can forgo shearing, because it's early spring, too early to shear.

Are 10 cows too big number in one farm?

It depends on the size of the farm. Modern farming has all sorts of quotas that bind farmers, but it's not uncommon to have a heard of several hundred. Even small, one man farms often have 30 cows.

It also depends if it's a dairy or a beef farm - beef herds are easier to raise as they don't need milking.

shaldna
05-07-2012, 06:59 PM
In the old days, they bedded stalls in straw on top of themselves all winter long, so by spring it could be several inches (feet?) deep. (today, may types of farming also do this, but not horses)

It's called deep litter, and it's very common in horses - more so than other animals.

The principle behind it is that you keep topping up the fresh bedding on top, so the animal is always standing on something clean and dry. You only lift out the poo, but not the urine soaked bedding.

Over time the ammonia reaction will cause the bedding to heat up and start to rot underneath, this actually helps to dry out the upper levels of bedding.

It's great for animals who are very dirty, or for farms/people short on time.

When I have to keep my horses in I keep them on deep litter.

shaldna
05-07-2012, 07:15 PM
Question:
Is potato suitable to be harvested in early spring? Did people in medieval plant them in household garden or farm rows?

no.

You are only plating your potatoes then, you'll harvest them in autumn.

Potatoes can grow pretty much anywhere, and in any soil, which is good.

They need to be planted a foot or two apart - just literally stick a single potato in the ground and it will multiply over the year.

They are usually planted in a large space as they are a common veg and the main staple of a lot of diets.

HOWEVER, as someone else pointed out up thread, we didn't have potatoes in Europe until the late 1500's - late 1580's in England.

anthony draco
05-07-2012, 08:09 PM
Plant potato in spring and harvest it in autumn. That's new to me. I live in a country which has rice as main source of carbohydrate. Thanks.

Cyia
05-07-2012, 08:23 PM
Farming has never been a major source of quick income for a single person - ever. Your kid would be lucky to get a bed and a pot of stew for supper, forget cash.

Animal care is ranching, not farming, btw. You have a "cattle ranch," not a "cattle farm" or a "sheep ranch," not a "sheep farm." Farms can, and do have small numbers of animals such as cows or sheep, but they're not the mainstay of the farm.

An unknown kid wouldn't be given a job other than mucking stalls or slopping hogs - things anyone can do without real risk to the animals or the goods they provide. In all actuality, an unknown kid wouldn't even get to do that. He'd be hiding in the barn, taking what he could get his hands on when no one was looking because no one's going to risk their livelihood on an unknown kid.

A vagabond in your time period might have luck as a "snake oil" salesman - have him nick some bottles and fill them with bond water, then sell them as a miracle cure for some pocket money.

Goldbirch
05-07-2012, 11:29 PM
The parsnip is a European root vegetable that sometimes be stored in the ground through the winter and harvested in the early spring. I've done this in the northeastern USA.

But I don't know whether it makes sense in a setting that includes yaks. Is there any particular region that you're basing your fantasy world on?

Also, it isn't a main carbohydrate-type crop, and harvesting parsnips is very unlikely to require surplus labor like shearing, calving, sowing, or barn-raising might. But it could be a minor chore.

L.C. Blackwell
05-11-2012, 10:13 AM
If you haven't already found this material on yaks, you may find it helpful.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yak

And what Wikipedia won't tell you, and people who have been in Tibet can tell you, is that cheese the way the Tibetans make it is dry, pretty nearly flavorless to a westerner, and hard as a rock.

jaksen
05-11-2012, 09:49 PM
I know naught about cows and farming, but I've been working on the 1940 US census, and here is what I have noted...

In farming towns and communities, families were LARGE and in those that were not, or the head of household was a widow or unmarried female, there were hired hands. Many of them. Of all ages. They would be listed in the census as any of the following: Hired Hand. Lodger. Boarder. If you looked for what they did as a living most wrote: Labor or Farm Labor. This meant they lived on that farm with that widow and what they did was WORK. All kinds of work. Many received no salary as they worked for their room and board. I've seen Hired Hand listed for boys as young as 13 and men all the way into their 70's. (All this information is included on the census pages.)

Which means, yes, your young man/boy/kid MC could be working on a farm at an early age, receive little or no pay, and work for his bed and food.

In fact, this was so common in the US in many states (in 1940 at the end of the Depression and with the WPA still going strong), that it would seem highly realistic to have it occur in a fantasy setting.

I once mentioned to my husband: Did every freakin' family have a lodger, boarder or hired hand in their household? Well in some communities the answer is yes, yes, yes.

It was even common in other rural communities, like fishing towns, etc. A hired hand was a way to get your physical work done and not have to pay much, or anything at all. (Just feed the guy and give him a bed.)